What makes an ‘outstanding’ Google Expeditions lesson? Like with any lesson, there is no ‘silver bullet’. Ofsted recognise this and explain in their publications “there are many routes to excellence”. Despite this, there are still some key indicators that need to be met in order for a lesson to be considered ‘outstanding’; students need to learn something, they need to be challenged and they must be engaged. Throughout this blog post, the aim is to give you some ideas about how Google Expeditions can be used in order to cover these three aims.
1) What are students going to learn? Planning for Google Expeditions.
Planning is important for delivering a lesson but too much of it can be detrimental and make your lesson become too rigid. Things don’t always go to plan; some students can race through certain topics and others can find it really difficult. An ‘outstanding’ teacher needs to be flexible and be willing to adapt their plans in order to maximise progress for students.
However, I do think it’s important to incorporate Google Expeditions into your scheme of work. This doesn’t need to be set in stone but you should have a rough idea of where you’re going to use it. If you’re teaching Egypt, when is the best time to show students the Pyramids of Giza? Is it at the start of a series of lessons to captivate interest and engagement in a topic? Or is at the end of a topic so that students can solidify their knowledge and relate to what they have learned? Make sure that you are clear what you want students to get from the experience. This might sound obvious but make sure you look through the different images and content before you deliver the lesson; there is always a temptation to ‘wing it’ based on the fact that all of the information is already there for you.
Using Google Expeditions on a frequent basis without any planning will slowly damage its impact. Students will become over familiar (leading to less engagement) and they will begin to view the tool ‘as a bit of fun’ rather than an excellent learning tool.
2) Is everybody engaged? Encourage collaboration with group and pair work.
Research has shown that students who are engaged in group work show increased individual achievement compared to students working alone. Furthermore, students will improve both their communication and confidence with speaking to groups of people. Google Expeditions (unlike other forms of virtual reality) lends itself to collaboration and discussion. To encourage discussions, I would firstly recommend using headsets without straps as this allows students to put them down easily, without any fuss. Secondly, clear expectations should be set at the start of the lesson in regards to how long students will be looking through the headsets. Another way of encouraging collaboration is having only two headsets per group of four, that way, students are more likely to ask questions and discuss what they have seen within their group. Finally, try allocating particular topics or questions to different groups, so that each group is required to focus on something different. Following on from this, groups can feedback to the rest of the class in regards to what they have discovered.
3) Are students challenged? Run student led expeditions.
One method for challenging students is to give them the opportunity to lead an expedition. This encourages independence and requires the student to become a ‘master’ in that particular topic. Students should be encouraged to do their own research, so that they have additional information to the facts provided on the ‘guide’. A step up from this could be for students to create their own worksheets/activities for the rest of the class to complete during the expedition. If students can lead an expedition and break down content to create worksheets and activities, they will demonstrate a deeper understanding of a topic. In addition to challenging their thought process, students will also have practice presenting in front of a large audience, an area of development that is often neglected in schools. If students are not up to leading an expedition on their own (or if it’s simply not feasible due to time), they could be placed into small groups, where they could work together to prepare a presentation.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of ideas but hopefully it gives you a couple more things to practice with your class. The one thing I will emphasise from this article is; have a clear understanding of what you want students to gain from the experience. If you continuously use Google Expeditions as a random activity and ‘a bit of fun’ it will slowly lose its effect.
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